By Amin Kef Sesay
The Ambassador of the United States of America to Sierra Leone, Ambassador Maria E. Brewer on Wednesday 16th September 2020 held a round-table discussion with a cross-section of the media in Sierra Leone at the Country Lodge, Hill Station in Freetown.
The roundtable discussion brought together journalists from both the print and electronic media as well as key media stakeholders to retrospect on the role of the media in Sierra Leone based on media literacy, how the people passive journalists and also to chart the way forward after the repeal of the Criminal Libel Law in the country, how the people understand the media and the workings of the media.
In his opening remarks, the US Ambassador commended the media for participating in the roundtable discussion and for their support to the Embassy over the years.
Ambassador Brewer maintained that the Government believes in the rule of law and democracy, the reason the US Government is always willing to work with institutions that are helping to enhance the rule of law and democracy underscoring that the US Government is always open to help and strengthen human rights institutions across the globe.
Thomas Dixon, Editor of Salone Times Newspaper, in his presentation, acclaimed the US embassy for organizing such a roundtable discussion noting the fact that it is difficult for the media to undertake self-reflection on their role over the years but rather focusing on reporting and bringing to light the ills in society and underscored the importance of such forums.
He furthered that there is low level of media literacy in the country and called on the Embassy to support the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) and the Guild of Editors to help educate the public on the crucial role of the media in the development of any country.
Speaking on life after the repeal of the Criminal Libel Law, the Managing Editor of the Owl Newspaper and ex-Commissioner of the Independent Media Commission (IMC), Alhaji Dauda Musa Bangura expressed appreciation to the US Embassy for bringing media practitioners on board to chart the way forward after the repeal highlighting that there is no better time to have a reflection than now and opined that there is better life after the repeal only if Government allows free media and ensures that the right institutions do their job freely and professionally.
Chairman, Guild of Editors, Mr. Donald Theo Harding disclosed that the issue of media poverty is really key and that until it is addressed the challenge would remain reiterating that media poverty leads to media manipulation.
Mrs. Asma James from Radio Democracy 98.1 FM called on the Embassy to continue to support the media in Sierra Leone in order to educate the public about the role and work of the media in the country.
Amadu Lamarah Bah of AYV TV dilated on the need for private sector investment in the media that would help transform the media landscape in the country citing AYV Media Empire as an example.
Other journalists who participated in the roundtable discussion commended the US Ambassador and team for the laudable initiative as they underlined, “it is worthy for media practitioners to reflect on their job and what the people think about them.”
The US Deputy Chief of Mission, Elaine French also made a short presentation on media literacy while the Acting Public Affairs Officer, Anita Beamon-Freeman and Media Assistant, Alhassan Jalloh, co-chaired the roundtable discussion.